Tuesday, 24 June 2014

How To Make Money Online

I've been told from those "in the business of making money online" that the best way to do it is write a book about "How to Make Money Online." It's both a joke and it's not at the same time.

I have been researching here and there over the past year or so how people make money online, and there is no shortage of articles talking about search-engine optimization, titles that generate hits, how to "fake it till you make it," how to become an affiliate marketer, the importance of owning your own domain, and so on. I imagine all of these techniques work, and I may try them in the future, but for right now I'm just going to concentrate on creating my own content. A website without anything on it isn't worth coming to visit.

My girlfriend really likes making what I call "Barbie Blogs." She'll spend hours creating a blog for an idea she has, and have it all decorated and pretty and full of the right links and sections... and then she never writes a single article for it. A month later, she's got a new idea for a blog and repeats the process. Goodness, if she doesn't have 15 or 20 empty "Barbie Blogs" floating around online. But if there's no content, there's no reason for someone to come and visit.

I've never made a penny online - I've never even used Google Adsense - but I have had a relatively successful website before that generated over a thousand hits a day - it consistently does, even today without it ever being updated, because of the content on the blog. What I did was I used a blog as a format to research and write about a certain subject I was interested in  As I figured things out, I wrote about it and posted links or evidence to support what I was saying. More importantly, when I discovered I had made a mistake - either discovered by myself or pointed out by others - I announced it quite emphatically, and corrected it immediately. It was the fact that I showed my errors so visibly, and put in the effort to correct it, that slowly led to more and more people trusting the content I had online. Also, since I set it up as a resource - in sort of a book form, with all the links, studies, reports, and research to back up my case - simply leaving it there idle still generates a lot of hits, with people referencing my research as they do their own research. In other words, people come there still because there is something of value for them there.

For several months already, I have started documenting several different things I am doing. It does not matter to me right now that no-one is reading what I am writing - in fact, there is a certain freedom in writing this way. What I simply want to do, for the present, is start creating content. Once content is made, it is very easy to alter it into something a little different to suit your purposes - or to transfer it to a new website, since you just have to copy and paste it.

For example, I have been tinkering with growing vegetables out on my apartment's balcony for the past couple of years. So this year I decided to expand my garden a little bit and write about what I am doing on a blog called Balcony of Eden. I'm not trying to make money off of it, not yet anyways, but I am simply documenting what I am doing, writing about what works well and what doesn't, giving a full accounting of my expenses, and measuring my yields both for quantity and monetary value. In my experimentation of what works and what doesn't, I might be able to develop something valuable for people - a resource where they really find out how to effectively garden on a small balcony - and I will have oodles of examples and data to back up what I am saying from documenting my successes and also my mistakes. From there, it would be quite easy to compile a small book, in one or more of the various forms available today, and sell it maybe for a $2-$5 profit per sale. Lots of people, if they trust your content enough after reading a portion of your site, will pay a couple of bucks to download content to a Kindle, or some still like holding a paper book in their hands when they really want to get into something.

There is nothing shady about making a few bucks online this way, in my opinion, because you are giving away a lot of value for free and if the reader wants to have it presented in a slightly different way, it's fair to ask for a few bucks for your efforts - they are getting great value for their money. 

There's a couple of websites I've seen which simply document places. These are also a great resource. I've seen a guy from here in BC that started a website about all the fishing holes in his area, both lakes and rivers. Each time he goes to a place, he posts directions, the types of facilities (ie. boat launch, camping area, 4x4 only), what kind of fish are there, what kind of lures they were biting on and any other information he can pass on, including five or six pictures he took of the place and the date of his last visit/fishing trip there. Now that he's been doing it for a few years, it's become a great resource for all the fishermen in the area, with well over 200 fishing holes in the area listed and documented. Now the other fishermen are helping him update the areas - leaving comments that they went fishing at that spot two weeks ago, and they were biting on this or that - and the site is feeding its own growth. Local sporting goods shops and other businesses related to angling & fly-fishing are now paying him to place advertisements on his site. I don't know what he charges, but I know what I used pay for an advertisement in a newspaper with a circulation of around 10,000/wk ($300 to $500), and of that ten thousand circulation, my target audience was perhaps 10-15% of them. I am sure that a sporting goods store is in approximately the same situation I was in, and I can certainly see the value of them paying perhaps $100/month to have ads on a website that generates 500-1,000 hits a day from their directly targeted market: people who fish and buy their fishing gear in the immediate area. But it all started with the guy simply writing directions and taking pictures of the places each time he went fishing.

So, in that spirit, I have decided to write down directions and take pictures every time I go somewhere or do something in the Chilliwack Area and I started a blog called Life in Chilliwack, BC. I have pictures and directions saved from several places I have been to over the past year or two which I can transfer in there already, and now I am making a concerted effort to go to other places I know of in the area, simply to "document them." Who knows what it can be built into if, after a few years, I can create a listing of a few hundred places to go, featuring one each day while having a resource listing on the sidebar of the different activities available, community events, and whatnot else related to living in Chilliwack. Even if it doesn't turn into anything that "really works," it can always be added into another blog as a complimentary feature. On my gardening blog, for example, I have decided to document recipes I am making with my produce and therefore I am slowly creating my own recipe book. I've also been saving various household and money-saving tips, which I can also see being beneficial to "stick in between" my blogs here and there. In trying to start home-businesses, I am going to document my successes and failures on this blog you are reading right now - as well as documenting how I'm going to pull myself out of this depressing hole I've created for myself.

My plan for right now is to start creating content I think might be valuable and not worry about search engine optimization, thinking up catchy titles, or buying domain names until later, when I feel I have put something together that's worthwhile.

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